Taking the IT leap from radiology to the enterprise

It’s no secret that more and more imaging IT functions are moving to Information Services, as enterprise image management is centrally consolidated. What is less well understood are the unprecedented opportunities for imaging informaticists to expand their horizons to the enterprise view.

Two years ago, Louis M. Lannum, long-time Cleveland Clinic radiology informatics administrator, did just that. “Two-and-a-half years ago, we put in a VNA, so I had the opportunity to jump the fence,” he told an audience at the annual meeting of the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM). “If you are focused on departments, you have some skills the enterprise can use.”

One of the greatest assets imaging IT personnel have to offer is clinical alignment. “Most IT guys don’t have clinical alignments,” he said. “They are two or three tiers away from the clinical setting. A lot of IT organizations are struggling with that, and you know how to do that.”

Department-focused informaticists are accustomed to managing the gamut of clinical IT, including project management, desktop management and even change management. Enterprise IT, on the other hand, doesn’t do projects, Lannum explained: “They keep the lights on.”

As CIOs seek to gather DICOM and non-DICOM images in one central archive, these skills are increasingly useful to enterprise IT departments. Most IT personnel do not want to touch imaging, Lannum asserted,  and with the exception of cardiology, radiology is the only department with skilled imaging IT professionals.

Big Picture Imaging

Lannum is director of enterprise imaging with responsibility for image distribution and for gathering images from all other departments and putting them into the VNA, and for providing service and support to all of those departments.

“How many of you are involved in change management?” Lannum asked.  “If not, you should be. Get out in front of all imaging activities ongoing at your organization. There is an opportunity for all of us here to get in front of that curve because imaging is changing.”

To illustrate that change, Lannum, said that he archived 200,000 images—exclusive of radiology and cardiology—in one year, and hadn’t touched the health system’s hospitals outside Cleveland. In one year, one hospital produced one tenth of the radiology and cardiology images produced by the whole system.

“You guys are the big dogs in hospitals,” Lannum told the radiologists in the audience. “You produce more images than any other department—today. That is starting to change.”

There is more ultrasound outside of radiology than with it, and departments are taking clinical photos without any methodology, Lannum said.

In order to make the transition, Lannum urged participants to ask themselves three questions:

  • How many departments are asking you to help store and gain access to their clinical images?
  • Do you participate in enterprise-wide change management? “You should,” he said.
  • Do you just represent radiology or are you the imaging experts in the organization? “Think outside your silo,” he said.

Change is not easy, Lannum said, and there were many times when he sat in meetings aware that an entirely new language was being spoken, one in which he was not fluent.

“What I brought to the table is that I knew the doctors,” he said. “Become the imaging experts in your organization, because there is a space there. Imaging is starting to explode outside radiology, and nobody is managing it today.”